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National Restaurant Association names its new CEO

Former Sysco CEO Tom Bene will assume the job on June 1.

The National Restaurant Association has named industry veteran Tom Bene as its CEO and president, effective June 1.

Bene, the former CEO of Sysco Corp., will also be CEO  of the Association’s labor-development arm, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Rob Gifford remains president of the Educational Foundation. 

In both of those capacities, he fills the vacancy left by the departure at the end of 2019 of Dawn Sweeney, who had led the associations for 12 years. The associations’ CFO and chief people officer, Marvin Irby, has served as interim CEO since Sweeney’s resignation became effective.

Bene has logged three decades in the restaurant business, albeit on the supplier side. Before joining Sysco in 2013, he spent 23 years with PepsiCo, rising to president of the snack and beverage giant’s foodservice division.

The University of Kansas graduate stepped down as CEO, president and executive chairman of Sysco, the industry’s largest distributor, at the end of January. Bene continued to serve as an adviser to the company until March 1.

“Tom’s business acumen coupled with his remarkable record of success will be invaluable for our members and our industry as we begin the process of reopening and rebuilding,” Melvin Rodrigue, the New Orleans restaurateur serving as this year’s chairman of the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement.  “And, we remain grateful for Chief Financial and People Officer Marvin Irby and his exemplary service as interim CEO during the last five and a half months."

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